“Give you fifty, and that’s my last word.”
“I ain’t sellin’ dogs.”
He cursed, and offered five dollars more.
“Can’t you see I mean it? I’m goin’ to keep that dog—awhile.”
“S’pose you think you’ll make a good thing o’ hirin’ him out?”
He hadn’t thought of it, but he said: “Why not? Best dog in the Yukon.”
“Well, how much?”
“How much’ll you give?”
“Dollar a day.”
So Nig was hired out, Spot was sold for twenty dollars, and Red later for fifteen.
“Well,” said the Colonel when they went in, “I didn’t know you were so smart. But you can’t live here on Nig’s seven dollars a week.”
The Boy shook his head. Their miserable canned and salted fare cost about four dollars a day per man.
“I’m goin’ to take Nig’s tip,” he said—“goin’ to work.”
Easier said than done. In their high rubber boots they splashed about Rampart in the mild, thawing weather, “tryin’ to scare up a job,” as one of them stopped to explain to every likely person: “Yes, sah, lookin’ for any sort of honourable employment till the ice goes out.”
“Everything’s at a standstill.”
“Just keepin’ body and soul together myself till the boats come in.”
They splashed out to the gulch on the same errand.
Yes, wages were fifteen dollars a day when they were busy. Just now they were waiting for the thorough thaw.
“Should think it was pretty thorough without any waitin’.”
Salaman shook his head. “Only in the town and tundra. The frost holds on to the deep gulch gravel like grim death. And the diggin’s were already full of men ready to work for their keep-at least, they say so,” Salaman added.
Not only in the great cities is human flesh and blood held cheaper than that of the brutes. Even in the off season, when dogs was down, Nig could get his dollar a day, but his masters couldn’t get fifty cents.
THE GREAT STAMPEDE
“Die Menchen suchen und suchen, wollen immer was Besseres finden.... Gott geb’ ihnen nur Geduld!”
Men in the Gold Nugget were talking about some claims, staked and recorded in due form, but on which the statutory work had not been done.
“What about ’em?”
“They’re jumpable at midnight.”
French Charlie invited the Boy to go along, but neither he nor the Colonel felt enthusiastic.
“They’re no good, those claims, except to sell to some sucker, and we’re not in that business yet, sah.”
They had just done twenty miles in slush and mire, and their hearts were heavier than their heels. No, they would go to bed while the others did the jumpin’, and next day they would fill Keith’s wood-bin.